Apple Is Banned From Selling Smartwatches In US

Federal Appeals Court Halts Apple Watch Imports Over Patent Infringement Claims

Apple: In a recent ruling, the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit has prohibited the importation of Apple Watches capable of reading blood-oxygen levels into the United States. This decision comes as Apple contests a government determination that these devices infringe on patents. The ban, effective since 5 pm on January 18, will persist while Apple challenges the US International Trade Commission’s (ITC) prohibition.

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Apple Reacts: Removal of Blood-Oxygen Feature and New Product Launch

In response to the ruling, Apple has announced the removal of the blood-oxygen reading feature from its flagship Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models in the US. The legal battle is expected to extend over a year, and to avoid a halt in sales in one of its major markets, Apple has decided to eliminate the contested feature from these models. The newly configured Apple Watch Series 9 and Ultra 2 models, sans the blood-oxygen feature, will be available for purchase starting 6 am Pacific time on Thursday.

ITC’s Ban History and Apple’s Redesign Strategy

The ITC had initially imposed an import ban on Series 9 and Ultra 2 Apple Watches on December 26. However, the federal circuit lifted the ban the following day while considering Apple’s request for a prolonged pause. During this period, Apple resumed sales. Customs and Border Protection later determined that a proposed redesign by Apple would allow the importation of reconfigured versions without violating ITC’s restrictions.

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Patent Dispute Origins: Masimo Accuses Apple of Technology Theft

The patents at the heart of the dispute belong to medical technology company Masimo, which accuses Apple of poaching its employees and stealing pulse oximetry technology for use in Apple Watches. Following Masimo’s complaint, the ITC had initially barred imports and direct Apple sales of Apple Watches featuring blood-oxygen level readings.

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Ongoing Legal Battle and Business Impact

Apple, a significant player in the global smartwatch market, accounting for about a quarter of it, has countered Masimo with its own patent infringement lawsuit. The legal wrangling is poised to continue for months, with Apple seeking to keep the ban on hold throughout the appeals process. The dispute not only impacts Apple’s sales but also raises questions about the future of wearable technology and intellectual property in the rapidly evolving market.